Second-Hand Idiocy

When I was a kid, in my fifth grade health class, we were assigned to make our own fake cigarette brands. These were supposed to act as the honest alternative to cigarettes. So instead of Camel, we made Cancer; Newport became Not Cool; and Marlboro became Bone Marrow. Give me a break, I was ten, and that was the extent of my wit (some would say it still is). The point is, this was supposed to teach children about the dangerous effects of cigarette smoking. Fast forward almost two decades later, and Canada now covers about seventy-five percent of the pack with an image and a fact about the harmful effects of smoking. You’ve got your somber, your painfully obvious, and your more abstract, among a whole host of others seen here.

I wrote this post to talk to you about how stupid the whole thing is. Does this deter people from buying cigarettes? Not at all. In fact, of the images above, do you know what the most popular one is? It’s the empty crib. Why? Because, and I quote, “Most people don’t necessarily have children, so the empty crib isn’t disturbing to them.” That was said to me by a woman, with a grin on her face, like she had just Rain Man-ed her way through Vegas, and had mentally outsmarted the system (and herself) of feeling any sense of guilt. The least popular? It’s obviously the cancer ridden tongue. I’ve had people throw that pack back to me as if it was possessed by Linda Blair herself. That just leaves Leroy. Who’s Leroy? He’s the somber dude with a hole in his throat. The first time a customer asked me if he could have the Leroy pack, I was confused as all hell. And then he showed me that this guy actually had a name underneath of the quote.

What’s my point with this? It’s just the absurdity of it all. Canada tried covering its cigarettes from the public eye, and now uses that space as a billboard for whatever it chooses to advertise (usually it’s gum, go figure). There’s no deterrent. Anyone who wishes to smoke knows they exist behind those black covers. It’s as if the next logical step in their minds was people would literally be frightened away by the packaging. Smokers don’t care about the packaging. It’s probably a mere five second uncomfortable glance to them at best. And while many come in an joke about the packaging, and about their intentions to quit, most of them would rather just play trade the pack as if they were some rare Pokémon card. You know what might work better? They should come in, ask for their cigarettes, and I should take their money without giving them anything. That’s the point, isn’t it? To make them feel bad for purchasing cigarettes? Showing them pictures of people dying, or pregnant women, or kids coughing isn’t doing anything. They’re not losing sleep over it. But if they started losing money over it, that might start to make a difference.

But I’m clearly biased. I am the Merchant of Death after all.

Juvenile NamsaKe

Overreaction for Sale

Dr. Pepper, along with its authentic blend of 23 flavors, also contains the DNA that created the homo sapiens; YouTube gives the followers of Islam a lesson in poor religious green screening; fast food chains known for clogging arteries in the heart apparently do not support matters of the very organ they’re destroying; and I can no longer hear the number 47 without thinking of Mitt Romney (sorry, Ronin).

Advertisements, videos, cartoons, etc. are no longer outlets for freedom of expression, but are turned into (whether they’re intended to or not) blasphemous assertions and assumptions, causing destruction and death, creating fear and ruining faith. A politician saying something ten years ago or ten days ago needs no context or understanding to be turned into a sound bite. Political gaffes and gridlock determine political outcomes. Boycotting sandwiches or stuffing one’s face with them is the only form of protest we seem to understand.

Everywhere you look these days, it seems that no issue, however big or small, is allowed to be talked about in a rational manner. You’re either on one [extreme] side or the other, and there’s no middle ground, just ground zeroes. By now, you’ve all heard of the issues I’ve alluded to above, and I won’t bother going into immense details about each one, but I will ask: how did you react? It’s absolutely fine to have taken a side on the issue, but in doing so, did you ever bother to understand the other side, or did you quickly vilify them?

Did you bother to think politically and understand that Romney’s right–that 47% of the voting block probably won’t vote for him. Is that wrong for a politician to say? That he expects not to get votes from a certain group of people? I know most people are harping on his comments about people being victims, and too dependent on government, but do those being offended even think politically anymore, or is it all personal? Romney’s fifty shades of grey (I hate myself for writing that) on a whole assortment of issues, but it’s when he speaks his mind, that we’re shocked?

The CEO of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage. Our conclusion? Chicken sandwiches must oppose gay marriage too. The transitive property never got so convoluted. To the Bible belt: Dr. Pepper creates an ad supporting not just evolution, but it’s primarily role in the evolution of man, and you immediately feel like the creationist children of today will be swayed by high fructose corn syrup’s sermon? To the followers of Islam, but more importantly, the Middle East: it’s the age of the internet, and it comes down to faith. Yes, the dude who made it is a despicable jackass. I don’t think anyone denies that. And if someone ridicules your faith in such a manner, you have every right to respond. But it still comes down to faith–yours versus some idiot’s in California. [Hint: his is probably nonexistent.]

To all people of faith in anything: you preach tolerance, yet fall into the trap of practicing persecution when it doesn’t conform to your beliefs. Just tell me how strong, how weak, how indifferent, your faith is? Attacking embassies and drive-through employees? Did it really take an absurd YouTube video or a CEO’s opinion to incite hatred at such a level? Has it really become that easy? There are those of you that are falling victim to forces that not only expect, but are banking on your overreaction. We’re a society that thrives on it. Forget shooting the Archduke. That’s a thing of the past. We’ll soon go to war over YouTube, not uranium enrichment. Our biggest weapon of mass destruction is our inability to think, yet our almost superhuman speed, and constant need, to react. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing from the Cuban Missile Crisis–about patience, about mutual respect, and about the sanctity of life, in both war and peace.

What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek? […] Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, and the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children. Not merely peace for Americans, but peace for all men and women. Not merely peace in our time, but peace in all time. […] For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.
John F. Kennedy

Baker’s Paradox

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

How many times have you heard that and been absolutely infuriated by the idiotic thought process that must go into conjuring up such an idiom. What do you mean I can’t have my cake, and eat it too? Not only can I, but I have, and will continue to do so. What do you know about catch-22’s? I have (and eat) them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert, and my midnight snack.

Wikipedia tells us this phrase has been around since 1546. I’m no math scholar, but that’s almost a billion years ago. You know what I discovered in the time it took me to Google all of that? You’ve all been messing up the saying. Apparently, the original saying was recorded as, and I expect you all to read this in your best English accent: “wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?” Do you see why this is such a profound change? Of course you don’t. You’re still trying to figure out what “wolde,” “bothe,” and “eate” are. You probably didn’t understand them because you’re so used to spelling them “wud,” “bth,” and “eatzzz.”

Logically, it makes total sense, that you couldn’t first eat the cake and still continue to possess it in your hands. But through this weird game of telephone, we’ve reversed the order, so the primary action preventing you from eating the cake is having the cake, which is not just baffling, but physically impossible. The somewhat correct phrasing to get your point across is “you can’t eat your cake and have it too.” But even that point’s infinitely stupid, because the message you’re trying to convey is “you can’t have the best of both worlds,” or “you can’t have it both ways.” In Russia and Germany, the saying is somewhat modified, as “you can’t sit on two chairs,” and “you can’t dance at two weddings,” respectively.

That’s wrong, not to mention negative. And I don’t need “cake,” “chairs,” or “weddings” being associated with such negative imagery. How many birthday cards do you see with a cake on it that just says “Happy birthday. You’re 5. It’s all downhill from here.” That’s right, not many. Because you couldn’t handle the sheer amount of suicides via famous copyrighted character piñatas. And do you think IKEA only sells a dining table set with one chair, because the possibility of not just owning, but accidentally sitting on two chairs is too mind blowing? In Russia, two chairs sit on you. And how about Germany? Do they not understand the concept of crashing weddings? I’m pretty sure they invented it? Or was that countries?

So not only do these phrases not make any literal sense, but metaphorically, they’re a hindrance upon the furthering of society’s need to pursue common goals. They tell us that we cannot do something. They tell us we cannot have something. In a world that is seemingly so preoccupied with growing up far too fast and taking on far too much, sometimes I like to sit back and enjoy the simple things, for however long I can, before they are taken away from me.

Join the Resistance. No caKe but what we make, have, and eat.

Art of the Ransom

I was told that my “Paradox Lost” logo above resembled a ransom note, and it got me thinking, whatever happened to those things? The digital age has all but killed the need for such an art form. Yes, I said art form. What else do you call the painstaking process of finding not just letters, but sometimes individual words, of a specific font, color, and size, pasting them onto a piece of paper, and risking your life to drop it into someone’s mailbox or worse, through the little mail slit in the door (which most houses don’t even have anymore, but I digress).

It sounds odd, but just think about it. When we were kids, we used to cut up magazines, books, and newspapers, for pictures, and sometimes even stories that interested us. I’m in no way condoning kidnapping, but grabbing a kid from his/her bus stop is the easy part as far as I’m concerned. It’s the subtle art of the ransom note that absolutely amazes me. They didn’t bother to write ransom notes with a pen, because I’m pretty sure cops can perform handwriting samples, so the next logical step was to use letters and words that couldn’t be traced.

So there was a person, who’s sole job it was to sit at the table–while the rest of the gang made phone calls and ordered getaway vehicles and Chinese take out–and just go through Lord knows how many stacks of newspapers and magazines, all in an attempt to create a terrifying, yet artistic, threat of a ransom note. It couldn’t have been easy. I mean, first you’ve got to craft a message. What are you going to say, demand, and/or threaten? With so many words at your disposal, brevity is sure to be a skill, especially when your message has to appear hurriedly put together on an 8×11 piece of paper. It clearly took an immense amount of time perfecting how slanted the words should be glued, and how far apart each piece should be placed.

The reason I call it a dying art form is because who even bothers to read a newspaper, let alone cut it up, to formulate a paper mâché letter that looks (and probably reads) more like a five year old’s temper tantrum than an attempt to extort money from unsuspecting civilians? No one writes anything by hand anymore. Nowadays, we’d all just type it into our computers, touch it up with Photoshop, and deliver it via an Instagram or a Tweet. There’s no passion. There’s no art. It’s just a joke now. No one understands the value of having a tangible piece of paper to hold onto, and to read whenever the need arises.

Jaded Kidnapper

P.S. Can you guess where all the letters in “Paradox Lost” come from?

Eye of the Beholder

Having been touted as “the most beautiful love story ever told” upon its release, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is considered an absolute classic by many and deservedly so, ranking right up there with other films established in the so-called “Disney Renaissance,” such as The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Aladdin, just to name a few. Adapted from the French fairy tale of the same name, the film follows the tale rather closely, telling the story of a prince who is transformed into a “beast” and the relationship he develops with the woman he imprisons, and later falls in love with. This post will not attempt to argue the love-hate relationship established between its main characters, known simply as “Belle” and “Beast,” nor will it try to somehow twist and turn what is, in essence, a love story between what would seem like two unlikely acquaintances, into some sort of social commentary on abusive relationships, the empowerment of women in said relationships, and so on and so forth. What will however be looked into, is the overall theme the film tries to pass off–of finding the inner beauty in someone through sacrifice and redemption–and how, through its usage of the “fairy tale” backdrop, the film seems to lose this message along the way, however unintentionally, to appeal to a much broader audience, one unwilling to accept any other outcome than what it deems desirable, even if it means turning a kind-hearted Beast back into the cold-hearted prince he once was.

A prince learns the lesson of being humble and kind to those less fortunate than himself the hard way. That’s completely understandable, given the fairy tale atmosphere, especially in a world that all but thrives on the transformation of people into animals to prove a point, especially ones that revolve around true love. Because clearly, talking animals who tell a woman to kiss them is where true love really lies. But where other films merely rehash that premise, Beauty and the Beast takes a different approach. After the opening scene, where the transformative curse is placed upon this prince, we pretty much never see this enchantress-turned-beggar ever again; not even a mention. What we are left with is a symbolic rose, a magic mirror and an entire house full of servants-turned-household furniture. Now granted, the ordeal of reversing the transformation process is an important one for the main character, but it shouldn’t feel like the only motivating factor. What I felt the original French fairy tale did better than Disney’s interpretation, is that it kept the curse aspect of the story a secret until the very end, leaving a sense of mystery behind the Beast’s origin, as well as allowing the audience to believe that this woman, Belle, was falling in love with a Beast, in every sense of the word, further pushing ahead on its theme of loving someone for who he/she is on the inside. There was nothing in the back of one’s head shouting, “It’s okay—he’s not really a Beast. He’ll change. This is after all, a Disney film.” The relationship evolves just the same in both versions, with initial tensions between Belle and the Beast. The gradual mutual understanding the two form, with the Beast rescuing Belle and her, in return, treating his wounds, seems genuine and one buys into the concept immediately, even if we subconsciously, through one scene alone, know that the Beast is suffering from more than just loneliness.

Therein lies my problem. What could’ve been, or at the very least, tries to be, a remarkable and poignant tale of a prince seeking redemption through the sacrifice of love and happiness, thus seeing how that real transformation changes him for the better, seems to fall victim to its own “happily ever after” layout. This is not to say that Belle and the Beast’s relationship shouldn’t have reached the “love” stage, with Belle professing her love to Beast, breaking the curse, or the Beast professing his love of Belle to a clock in one of the film’s most emotional moments. But the end result, watching the Beast almost die, the last petal of the rose crash to the ground, and Belle profess her love, would have had an even bigger impact if the Beast, of whom it should be mentioned he’s never even given a name outside of “Beast,” both survived and didn’t transform back into the hardened prince he was. The story attempts to justify this closure as somewhat of a lesson learned, and how being a Beast is nothing more than imagery, portraying what being an arrogant and selfish person turns one into. But it is through being a Beast for most of his early life, that the Beast learns how to be a true human being. And it is the Beast that Belle falls in love with. This notion that somehow Belle is rewarded for making the right decision is absurd. She fell in love with the Beast. And now that Beast is a prince without a name—not the person she’s grown close to and not the person she’s bonded with. The imagery of seeing a prince with Belle, that same prince we haven’t seen since the beginning of the film itself, seems to be a shot to the arm, insulting to the viewer, as to say, “We told you we wouldn’t keep this guy the Beast the entire film.” More emphasis seems to be given to “being human” rather than behaving like a human being. In a particular scene, the household furniture discusses being scared of the prospect of never transforming back to their servant, human selves. But that’s understood, to be a human being over a clock or a candle stand is a noble desire. But the Beast–that’s who he becomes, who he is, and who he is destined to remain–because it was an important part of his developmental process. Being a prince made him jaded, and cut off to the outside world. And so he was transformed into something that, to the outside world, seems to fit those characteristics better than a human being; an animal, a hybrid between man and animal, a Beast.

It would have been different, had we seen the prince’s early, his not so humble beginnings, showing the audience what turned him into the coldhearted person he was. But none of that is ever shown, or mentioned. We watch an entire film through the eyes of either the Beast or Belle, and how they begin to relate to one another. And it’s not even indicated by the film itself that it wishes to inform Belle of the Beast’s pre-transformation lifestyle. In fact, the film does quite the opposite. Belle isn’t supposed to know of the Beast’s former life as a prince, as she’s supposed to fall in love with the Beast as is, with nothing else but “true love” driving her motivation. When Belle stumbles upon the encased rose, she is scared away by the Beast. And what the original fairy tale does better than the Disney adaptation is that it makes Belle gradually figure out that she does indeed love the Beast she originally despised. On one specific occasion, in both versions, the Beast sends Belle away to her home so she can aid her ailing father, but where the two narratives differ is the ultimate decision for Belle to return back to the Beast. The film has Belle attempting to reason with the townspeople that the Beast is a gentle soul, her friend, only to have them form a mob, lead by Belle’s spurned lover to kill the Beast. In the fairy tale, there is no villain to speak of, so when Belle returns to her home to see her family, she begins to feel bad about overstaying because she promised Beast she’d only be there a week. She feels so bad in fact, that when she notices in the magic mirror that the Beast is dying, she rushes over to him and professes her love. It works, in the context of the story, because it’s a genuine emotion, expressed from the heart, at being away from someone she’s gotten close to. The entire subplot of the spurned lover and the town’s revolt against the Beast only draws attention away from the real love story unfolding every time Belle and the Beast are present on screen.

There are those who will argue, that it’s just a love story between the beauty and the beast, hence the title, but an important component to the film is the transformation. After all, the whole reason the prince is transformed in the first place is because he refuses to help an elderly beggar who appears “ugly.” But I’d like to argue that why couldn’t the enchantress have been doing the Beast a favor? By turning him into what he himself despised and teaching him the lesson of lost love and the idea that one can very much spend an entire lifetime being lonely, with no one to ever reciprocate love back, seems like the bigger message here. In the scene where Belle discovers the rose, she also notices a portrait of a prince, with familiar blue eyes, but with huge gashes torn through it. It symbolized something the Beast hates, or has grown to hate: himself. He seems to have moved on, and the only thing that scene emphasizes is the fact that Belle can start to somewhat, however lightly, connect the dots. It feels like a cop out scene, if only to have Belle realize that maybe there is, in fact, a reward to be had by falling love. But the image of the Beast scaring her away and the rose, symbolizes that the Beast himself no longer likes to think back to that time in his life anymore. Granted, it could all very well be pent up rage, but it makes sense for the Beast to learn to eventually live with himself as is. He very much feels a void in his life, the lack of love turning him into perhaps an even colder person than he was pre-transformation, but connecting to Belle changes all that, and he does it, through the Beast persona. There are those who would argue that he was merely doing it so he could return to his human self again. But would that not be a selfish reason to fall in love? Wouldn’t the entire premise of true love be hereby rendered false, or at the very least, under false pretenses? It doesn’t make sense. There was simply no reason for the Beast to turn back into a human being just because he and Belle were in love. The Beast should’ve come back to life, having found true love and then set his servants free from their current forms. This way, the message of love conquers all, even mere appearances, and the notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder still stands true, even more so now, that the Beast remained the Beast and Belle remained with the Beast. Having the Beast turn back into the prince does nothing more than harkens back to a plot point that was never mentioned again after the opening of the film and would have been better suited to be a mere curse rather than a reason to have the film end with the obligatory prince and princess dance around a spectacular ballroom while onlookers stand by. Imagine how iconic the last frames of the film would be if it was Belle and the Beast, reprising their earlier dance.

Numerous films have attempted to explain the logic that physical appearances mean nothing when it comes to love, yet almost all of them fall back into the tradition of having one of the characters “grow” by reaching a level of acceptable physical appearance. She’s All That attempted to turn the free spirited art student into a prom queen and Shrek, relying on breaking every Disney convention, had the unlovable ogre fall in love with a princess he never cares for, only to turn said princess into a bloody ogre as well. It’s as if people just aren’t prepared to see a monster and a beauty, or any woman for that matter, fall in love with a hideous looking C.H.U.D., with the only notable exception being Frankenstein and his wife, but she was built that way. It seems that in animation, it’s just easier to follow the “true love” formula if there’s two attractive people in the lead, where as in live action, the audience is all but willing to see Katherine Heigl with Seth Rogen (Knocked Up), or Jonah Hill with Emma Stone (Superbad). That’s particularly okay, because we can somehow relate to real people who may not be physically desirable, but when it comes to animation, the double standard applies itself in spades. Would the film have suffered if it hadn’t changed the Beast back? It’s highly doubtful, as it was a Disney film and the ending would still remain a rather happy one, with the two lovers reuniting. But unlike The Little Mermaid before it, Beauty and the Beast chose to change itself for the sake of the viewer. In The Little Mermaid, it made sense that Ariel would have to give up being a mermaid if she ever wanted to imagine a life with Prince Eric. But there’s no such sacrifice needed from Belle. She’s merely to love unconditionally this Beast, who is still not given a name, even after he becomes the prince society deems he should become. And isn’t that real tragedy of it all—that beauty was the beast—that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, yet that eye belongs to Beast, but Beauty never will.

Jealous King

The Killing Joke

It’s unfortunate, that after a rather passionate post expressing the importance of the First Amendment, I find myself talking so soon about the Second one, albeit under entirely different circumstances. Let’s just hope Canada doesn’t decide to quarter its troops in American homes, or else I’ll have to write up an absurd entry about the new found validity of the Third one.

By now, we’ve all heard of the deadly shootings that took place in Aurora, Colorado at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, but also the shooting at a block party in Scarborough last week, or at the Eaton Center last month; and if not those, then surely we remember Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Gabriel Giffords, and Columbine, to name just a few.

I was 9 when Columbine happened. I would consider myself far too young, and perhaps far too sheltered, to really remember if it had any profound effect on me at the time. All I remember is flashes of two men in trenchcoats. I was a senior in high school when Virginia Tech happened. It struck more than just a chord with me. It had happened the day before I would take flight for Florida for my senior class trip to DisneyWorld. I had friends who had applied there, and had even visited the campus as recently as the week prior to the shooting. Two months ago, I watched God Bless America, and there’s a scene in which the two main characters shoot people in a movie theater because they talked too loud, or texted during the film. I laughed. It was funny. Two months later, it’s no laughing matter, as a similar scene in The Gangster Squad trailer has caused Warner Brothers to not just pull the trailer off the web and from theaters, but they’re in the process or removing the scene from the film entirely, and reshooting scenes around it. They’re not delaying the film by a few months, they’re actually undergoing reshoots on a film that is fully completed, just to avoid the unfortunate hurdle that is reminding people of an act that bears no relation to the film itself.

Where do we draw the line? What’s the appropriate reaction? I don’t really have an answer (or a point) with this post. It just irks me. No, that makes this sound like someone took the last piece of cake. This problem, of people feeling the need to lock and load to solve their problems bothers me, in a very disturbing way. What bothers me more is how we, as a society, have actually come to accept this behavior, to the point that we can parody it. It’s dare I say normal, or at least as normal as corruption in politics (but that’s an entirely different post altogether). Why does it take such tragedy to unite us, that too for about a week (a month if we’re lucky), until at least the next one befalls us? I’m tired of events like this being treated like a mere human interest piece by the media, following the same, sickly pattern of who can get down to the scene of the crime first, who can interview the first victim or perhaps even a victim’s family member (regardless of where they reside or what the actual relationship is like between the two), find out who the suspect is and mob his or her family, and worst of all, filling in the void before anyone has any relevant information with rampant speculation as to why and how it happened. It’s counter productive, and even that’s an understatement.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

That’s the text from the Second Amendment. This is not supposed to be my way of preaching gun control or further buy into (or even refute for that matter) this paranoid notion that Obama’s going to take away your guns. But shouldn’t that debate be happening? Shouldn’t it have been happening years prior, before any of the aforementioned incidents took place? I can only speak for myself, and hopefully, some of what I am saying echoes with the rest of you. If a 23 year old can see there is a problem, and a 6 year old can be a victim of that problem, and an entire country can be held hostage by the fear of that problem, then should there not be a national dialog taking place on that problem?

I don’t care which side of the Second Amendment you stand on. This isn’t about the mere “right to bear arms” anymore. It’s high time we became that “well regulated militia,” concerned about the security of our people, from people who take advantage of and grossly misuse being able to have weapons of any kind. To those who live and die by the Second Amendment, I’m here to say we’re not going to take away your guns, but we sure as hell would be glad if you used your right to keep guns away from people who share your view but have put a twisted spin on it. Not even that, but I’m just about positive that those who commit these heinous acts of violence have no idea what the Second Amendment is. A first grader who takes a gun to school and accidentally shoots a classmate has no idea what a “militia” is, or that “bear arms” could mean anything but an actual bear’s arm. Surely this potential PhD student had to know what the Constitution was and what the Amendments were, because he prepared his home for the Fourth, and he’ll be pleading the Fifth, and he’ll no doubt be getting the Sixth.

This brings me to the politics of it all. What the [expletive] Congress? What do you do? Like seriously, what do you do? It’s not enough that one of your own takes a bullet to the head? What will it take for any of you to put away your partisan bullshit? When did gun control, or even the safety of the very people who elected you, become the sole responsibility of one political ideology or party? I understand Republicans have international issues (war) in the bag and Democrats all but take the cake on most domestic social issues (gay marriage), but surely we can agree that our citizens are being shot, regardless of their views. Veterans, gays, priests, children, students and even soldiers are being killed for no reason. I know the media will spend numerous a weekend special trying to find out the motive. Maybe he was bullied in school, or maybe he grew up in a rough home, etc. I don’t care. I’m not not saying these aren’t factors, but when it came time for this man—this 24 year old medical student, someone I’m sure is a lot smarter than you and I, at least in the academic sense of the word—to buy guns and to buy ammunition, he did it as easily as walking into this local shop and on Ebay. He had no past record, so the background check is kind of moot. But he acquired three guns and tons of bullets and enough intelligence (term used loosely) to turn his home into a Saw-like maze for anyone who stumbled upon it.

Again, I have no idea how we can possibly solve this problem, short of overhauling gun laws in this country and possibly the Department of Homeland Security, but saying nothing seems like the norm around here regarding these issues, and I didn’t want to contribute to the silence. We mourn and grieve quietly, but we also talk about this issue quietly, and that’s a problem. When it happens, we’re told that it’s not the best time to talk about gun control and we should focus on the victims and bringing the suspect to justice. When we’re bringing the suspect to justice, we’re told not to talk about it because it’ll hinder the process of finding out why he did it. And after we convict the suspect, we’re told we still can’t talk about it, out of respect for the families that lost loved ones. When can we talk about it?

I don’t expect these types of stories to go away. Lord knows that’s unfortunately far too unrealistic given the times we live in, but as I mentioned above, this unnerving sense of normalcy that creeps into us, when such events do take place, is disturbing. We unite behind such tragedy and immediately fall back into a pattern. It’s ironic, that at a time like this, the words of a fellow Joker come to mind: You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan.’ Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all ‘part of the plan.’ But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! I hate to say it, but I agree. We don’t care when a drug cartel is wiped out, or if soldiers are killed (so long as it’s in war). We expect that to happen. We think it’s the right thing to be done. Using that logic then, a theater being shot up should not happen. It should go against some code of honorable violence, that schools, shopping malls, and coffee houses shouldn’t be targeted; that innocent civilians shouldn’t be targeted. But none of us are innocent. We’re guilty of letting these things happen time and time again. School was my escape, my second home. The movies were, and will forever remain, my second family. Yet they found me. They found us at our safest. I don’t know how, and I don’t care why. We’ve turned life to death and death into a joke; a slow, tiring process of court and insanity appeals.There’s only one thing left to do. Lock them up in Arkham, toss away the key, and burn the place down.

Joker, Kill the

My heartfelt condolences to all the victims, their families, and the countless others who have been affected by not just this tragedy, but others like it.

A Gift No More: In Defense of Stand-Up

Category 1: Richard Pryor. George Carlin. Eddie Murphy. Robin Williams. Louis C.K.

Category 2: Twitter. Tumblr. YouTube. Facebook.

Both of those categories are about being heard, but only one of them is ruining comedy. Both consist of strong voices, but only one of them is doing it in a way that attempts to drown out the other.

By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard about Daniel Tosh’s “infamous” incident at The Laugh Factory involving a female audience member’s interruption, citing that jokes about rape are never funny, and his subsequent reaction, asking the audience if it would be funny if she were to be gang raped by five men at that exact moment. I want to stress this, because I know how some of you will take this. This isn’t a defense of his comments, nor is it a defense of rape. You’re free to make your own minds up about what happened and why, and whether or not you agree or disagree with the backlash that followed. That’s not my job.

This is my defense of comedians everywhere who attempt (and no doubt fail) to push the boundaries of their craft. This is a defense of the environment they find themselves in. This is even a defense of those that find themselves in disagreement with them. This isn’t a defense of the issues that are brought up and discussed on stage, or in television, and/or film. This is a defense of comedy, particularly stand-up, something I feel will soon become a dying art, or rather, go completely underground, because we as a society no longer understand how to, and perhaps openly choose not to, accept different ways of thinking, framing, and delivering a thought.

A bit dramatic? Sure. But this is the world we live in.

In comedy, context is everything. Delivery is everything. Audience is everything. But all that changed. There used to be a time, when you got to see an act at a venue, and it was exclusive. There used to be a time when people would buy cassette tapes or vinyl records of their favorite comedian and play it out, memorizing every word. Somewhere, between CD/DVD sales of live performances and the advent of people capturing everything on their cell phones, that relationship was lost. It no longer became about the comedian on stage and his or her relation with the audience. It became about one voice, or a few voices, from that audience, taking it upon themselves to lead a crusade against something he or she did not personally like.

Daniel Tosh, or Tracy Morgan before him, or Kat Williams before him, or Michael Richards before him, or the plethora of other comedians who’s careers on stage take a turn for the worse (sometimes they’re never to be heard from or about again) because of hecklers know it’s a possibility; it’s a risk. Lord knows hecklers have been a part of the stand-up game for as long as stand-up’s been around. There will always be people in the audience who don’t appreciate all the material, and sometimes it’s just people who like being loud and insensitive, no doubt in response to the comic on stage who’s also being loud and insensitive. But last time I checked, freedom of thought, of speech and expression still means something, on both sides of the stage. Last I checked, this was America.

Here come the Constitutional scholars out of the woodwork to explain to me that such an argument is baseless, for what’s being spewed by these comics is hate speech, and racist, and warrants the wrath that follows from an unknown face and voice from the depths of the Twitter-verse, or a YouTube video that gets a few thousand hits, or God forbid, an angry Facebook or Tumblr response that reads like it was written by a lawyer and less like a disgruntled fan. If Twitter, or Tumblr, or even Facebook had existed when the likes of Carlin, Pryor and Murphy were performing, we may not revere them today. They might as well not exist. There’s a reason those performances are considered legends today. There’s a reason today’s crop of comedians look upon them and try to emulate them. There’s a reason their body of work, despite being considered offensive and off putting at the time, has somehow managed to stand that very test of time.

Justice Holmes, in United States v. Schwimmer, cited something that has never left my mind, and is a fundamental principle that I feel is lost in society today. He writes in his dissent, about “the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” Robert Jackson, the United States’ chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg trials stated, that the “freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

Think about it. How many of us can even tolerate a dissenting opinion these days? About anything? Someone didn’t like the same movie you did? Blasphemy. Someone didn’t vote for the same presidential candidate as you? Treason. There’s a reason a group of neo-Nazis can march in a parade in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Skokie. There’s a reason the KKK has a website, and even gathers openly to share its particular views. It’s the same reason a group of people can protest the funerals of dead soldiers, and make derogatory remarks about gays. It’s the same reason South Park has stayed on the air for so long, despite the numerous calls for its cancellation and/or death (okay, so maybe that’s just for the creators). It’s the same reason that jokes on a number of different topics, from cancer to AIDS, religion to genocide, and the Holocaust to September 11th, are littered in the comedic marketplace of ideas.

No one is saying you have to agree with the material. By all means, dislike it, despise it, and disapprove of it; and even make your voice heard. But remember that you were not alone in that environment. There were others. And they were probably laughing. It’s called pushing the boundaries for a reason. Everyone’s got their threshold. No one says you have to cross yours. But yours is not everyone’s. I don’t want to live in a world where stand-up acts don’t take risks. I don’t want to live in a world where stand-up acts don’t get to bomb after their tenth, or twentieth, or even fiftieth time on stage for a mere three minute (if they should be so lucky) set. Failing is a huge part of evolving in this act.

So no, Daniel Tosh’s comments about rape will not be remembered as comedic gold. But if his saying them is automatically considered dangerous to society, based on the words of a few, then trying to censor, silence, and/or downright forbid such remarks is also a dangerous path to take; again, based on the words of that few. Daniel Tosh may have failed at whatever he was going for with that comment. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be allowed on stage and/or television again. He may not agree with you, but he’s not calling for your immediate removal from your job or from your lifestyle, and you’ve probably said much worse things in the private environment of your own home, or with close friends and family, that hasn’t taped and put online for the world to see.